Feb 25, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – He is dead at the ripe old age of 91, but his legend will live on among men, who treasure country, those who dare to stand against the gods, come what may. Saudi Arabia’s, Sheik Zaki Yamani, was that kind of man in a life well lived, where he was tireless in serving the interests of his struggling countrymen. If only we had those who are like that here in Guyana; if only but one, with this oil of ours, that brings so much feebleness, causes so much uncertainty and distrust.
His pedigree was that of a non-royal in monarchical Saudi Arabia, which is usually enough to consign to the margins, or never close to the centres of power and meaningful influence. Yet, this was what Sheik Zaki Yamani, a mere commoner was able to achieve, when he was called upon to rise and lead the way forward. He delivered for his country time and again, and in the realm of the one thing that it has going for it: oil. Oil in so much abundance that the droves of predatory capitalists made their way to the desert, even to the trouble of dining in remote tents. We have abundant oil, too, but we are still groping to find a figure of the singular stature of Sheik Yamani. All we get for our efforts and expectations are shadows and sellouts.
Sheik Yamani’s oil context and inheritance as minister was one where the Americans led the way and maintained the firmest of strangleholds for decades on Saudi oil, a century almost. And that is taking into account the full nationalization that became official in 1976. Sheik Yamani was one of the driving forces behind that development, which favoured his country and drastically reduced the profits of oil companies. It only came about because of his determination to get the most for his people, even if that meant crossing swords with the West, especially the Americans. This was the path of this Middle Eastern oil giant of a man, who stood against the oil leviathans, stared them down, and walked away the victor.
One article from Reuters credited him as the man who brought “the West to its knees” (February 23), and Bloomberg spoke of his leadership in the “1973 oil embargo” that paralyzed industrialized America and Europe, and dragged the rest of the world down. Guyanese felt the pain over here, but this Saudi Arabian master for the interests of his people was not a man to flinch. Not even at the prospects and realities that were the inevitable fallouts of his dogged and intricate handiwork, a couple of which are now identified.
Sheik Yamani was an early architect of what became the much feared and despised OPEC. Sheik Yamani was the man and the patriot, who as the Saudi oil minister, was in the forefront of a series of carefully calibrated measures that, in the end, separated “the Saudi oil industry from the grip of American companies” (Reuters, February 23). That had to take some determined doing, but the Saudi was the man for the occasion. He did not shrink, or played games, or deceived his people, and the people to whom he answered. He had no such room, no option, but to deliver. And he did: “The moment has come,” he said. “We are masters of our own commodity.” To that, we add: and of the Saudi world, its times, and its destiny.
We look around for such a man here, such a leader. There is none; for there are only those who are so twisted in their dealings with this oil wealth of ours that they make a moving snake look like the straightest of straight arrows. Instead of Guyana slowly, and little by little, gaining a fairer share for our oil (not full ascendancy yet), our leaders retreat from every opportunity that could give us a chance to be equal partners with Exxon. Guyana’s de facto oil minister, its Vice President, is a shrinking violet, a study in artful dodging, who cowers from taking the hard unflinching positions that stalwart men like Sheik Yamani of Saudi Arabia and Pedro Andres Gomez of Venezuela took before. That was when they didn’t have much going for them, but the priceless commodity that made companies come hunting.
Today, there is concern and clamour over climate change, a brewing shareholder revolt, environmental interest pressure, and local denunciations over the state of our own oil. And still our leaders in government and opposition, in public and private and civil societies, are about what plumps their pillows, and fattens their personal prospects. Guyana needs an oil warrior like Sheik Zaki Yamani. All it gets is either one political Judas after another, or a bunch of Quislings helping themselves.
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